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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The myth of ripped muscles and calorie burns

By James S. Fell, Special to the Los Angeles Times

Whenever I hear about some amazing way to boost resting metabolism, my male-bovine-droppings detector goes berserk. Take the perennially popular one stating that 1 pound of muscle burns an extra 50 calories a day while at rest — so if you gain 10 pounds of muscle, your resting metabolic rate (RMR) soars by an extra 500 calories each day.
And also drivel. I'm more likely to believe bears use Porta-Potties and the pope is a Wiccan.
Though its origins are uncertain, any number of fitness magazines have made the "50 calories per pound of muscle" statement. Popular weight-loss gurus have jumped on the muscle-building-as-panacea-for-fat-loss bandwagon as well.
Dr. Mehmet Oz said in a 2007 presentation to the National Cosmetology Assn., "Muscle burns about 50 times more calories than fat does." Bill Phillips wrote in his bestselling "Body for Life" that, "through resistance training, you can also significantly increase your metabolic rate … weight training is even superior to aerobic exercise for people who want to lose weight." And Jorge Cruise wrote in "8 Minutes in the Morning" that his exercise regimen "will help you firm up five pounds of lean muscle within the first few weeks, allowing your body to burn an extra 250 calories per day."
Gain 5 pounds of muscle in the first few weeks? If only.
Let's use me as an example. I've added about 20 pounds of muscle through several years of hard weightlifting. If this myth holds true, I've gained 1,000 calories of additional resting metabolic rate each day. Well, I keep pretty close tabs on my energy balance, and I can guarantee this isn't happening. Too bad, because those extra 1,000 calories a day could translate to a gluttonous feast of salt-and-vinegar potato chips and cookie dough ice cream.
Beyond making me the go-to guy for opening pickle jars, what other contributions are made by that extra muscle? To get the answer, I spoke with Claude Bouchard of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., who has authored several books and hundreds of scientific papers on the subject of obesity and metabolism. Bouchard told me that muscle, it turns out, makes a fairly small contribution to RMR.
"Brain function makes up close to 20% of RMR," he said. "Next is the heart, which is beating all the time and accounts for another 15-20%. The liver, which also functions at rest, contributes another 15-20%. Then you have the kidneys and lungs and other tissues, so what remains is muscle, contributing only 20-25% of total resting metabolism."
So, if you slave at weightlifting and increase your muscle mass by an ambitious 20%, this translates into only a 4% to 5% increase in RMR. Since a 200-pound man has an RMR of roughly 2,000 calories, a 20% increase in muscle mass equals only an 80- to 100-calorie increase.
For fun, let's run the numbers in even more detail, adding the role played by body fat. Bouchard sent me a follow-up email explaining that — based on the biochemical and metabolic literature — a pound of muscle burns six calories a day at rest and a pound of fat burns about two calories a day, contrary to what the myth states. So, muscle is three times more metabolically active at rest than fat, not 50 times.
Again, let's use me as a guinea pig and do the math. The 20 pounds of muscle I've gained through years of hard work equate to an added 120 calories to my RMR. Not insignificant, but substantially less than 1,000. However, I also engaged in a lot of aerobic activity and dietary restriction to lose 50 pounds of fat, which means I also lost 100 calories per day of RMR. So, post-physical transformation, my net caloric burn is only 20 calories higher per day, earning me one-third of an Oreo cookie. Bummer.
Don't think I'm down on weights; I lift four hours a week because it's awesome. It makes me stronger, increases my bone density and improves the strength of my connective tissues. It hardens me against injury from other activities. And my wife says that it makes me pretty from the neck down.
Bill Phillips told me through an assistant that weightlifting is better for fat loss because "each new pound of muscle tissue increases chronic total energy expenditure/metabolism" and that "aerobic exercise alone does not offer this benefit." However, a sizable body of research shows that intense aerobic activity like running burns twice as many calories per hour as hard weightlifting, and the metabolic boost from added muscle is not nearly enough to compensate for this difference.
(I should note that Phillips and I are on the same general side in that we both recommend a combination of aerobic training and weightlifting.)
But wait! When you factor in "after burn," couldn't weightlifting still be some miracle calorie-consumer? Sorry, Conan, but after-burn — technically called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC — does exist, but only to a small degree. As I've covered in an earlier column, the EPOC of interval training is insignificant. And the same holds true for weightlifting.
A quick scan of the research:
• In 1995, researchers at the University of Limburg in the Netherlands published a study in Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise on 21 male subjects and determined that weight-training "has no effect" on RMR.
• In 1994, researchers at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Denmark compared 10 bodybuilders with 10 lean (you are so puny!) subjects. Published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the report found that intense weight-lifting did not result in any measurable EPOC.
• In 1992, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin compared intense weightlifting with intense aerobic exercise on 47 males and reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that "RMR did not significantly change after either training regimen."
Certainly the act of weightlifting burns calories, but intensity makes a big difference. In 1988, researchers at the University of Alabama in Birmingham published a study in the Journal of Applied Sport Science Research that used 17 subjects to compare the caloric burn of light versus heavier weightlifting.
When accounting for the same total volume of weight lifted (lifting 100 pounds three times is the same "volume" as lifting 300 pounds once), they found that when people lifted at 80% intensity, they burned three times as much energy as lifting at 20% intensity.
All of this, in any case, ignores the most important part of weight loss: what you eat. "The bottom line is that weight loss is 90% about diet," obesity researcher Dr. Sue Pedersen, a specialist in endocrinology and metabolism in Calgary, told me. "The studies show that exercise alone is not going to result in weight loss."
In other words, hours of running and weightlifting won't burn your belly fat if you fuel that exercise with Haagen-Dazs.
Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, Canada

Why a Lack of Sleep Can Make You Fat, and How to Keep From Gaining Weight

by Lisa Fields

You stayed up too late last night, so you grab a latte on your way into work. When you feel yourself slump at 3 p.m., you raid the vending machine. You're so tired at the end of the day, you can barely get home for dinner, let alone make a trip to the gym.

Sound familiar? Many sleep-deprived people drag themselves through the day, skipping physical activity and relying on sugary pick-me-ups. But these habits don't fight off sleepiness for long. And even worse? Over time, they can contribute to weight gain or, at the very least, sabotage your efforts to lose those last few pounds. 

Lack of sleep changes your appetite
"We have very substantial research that shows if you shorten or disturb sleep, you increase your appetite for high-calorie dense foods," says Charles Samuels, MD, medical director of the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance in Calgary, Alberta. "On a simplistic level, your appetite changes."

Two hormones in your body play an important role in controlling appetite and satiety. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, causing you to eat; leptin suppresses appetite—so you'll stop eating—and stimulates energy expenditure. In a properly functioning brain, the two hormones are released on and off to regulate normal feelings of hunger. But research has shown that sleep deprivation can alter ghrelin and leptin levels.

"When sleep is restricted to four hours a night, ghrelin levels go up and leptin levels go down," says National Sleep Foundation spokesperson William Orr, PhD, president and CEO of the Lynn Health Science Institute in Oklahoma City. "So you have a greater amount of appetite and a greater amount of intake."

Belly fat raises your diabetes risk
If you're chronically sleep-deprived and consume more high-calorie foods, it's likely those calories will be deposited around your middle, forming fat deposits that are especially dangerous for raising your risk of type II diabetes. "It's known as visceral fat deposition," says Dr. Samuels. "Sleep-deprived individuals' ability to respond to a glucose load and release insulin is altered."

In one oft-cited study, he adds, healthy people whose sleep was restricted for six nights showed impaired glucose tolerance, which is a prediabetic condition. When they then got enough sleep, about nine hours a night over the next six nights, their glucose responses returned to normal.

There's not enough evidence to claim that lack of sleep could cause diabetes, but research has found a connection between the two. At the very least, getting enough sleep can help regulate energy levels—eliminating the need to rely on sugar or carbs for a boost—whether you have diabetes or not. 

If you sleep less, you may weigh more
Countering an occasional sleepless night with chocolate the next day won't set you back too far, but research suggests you may gain weight if sleep deprivation and overeating become routine. "Individuals who are obese tend to sleep less," says Orr. "There's been a marked increase in obesity over the last 10 years, and over the last 50 years, there's been a marked reduction in average sleep time for the average American—which suggests a link between sleep, appetite regulation, and obesity."

The trouble doesn't necessarily end if you watch what you eat. Cheat sleep and you may have more trouble losing weight, even if you have a healthy diet. If two women are the same age and weight, both eating healthy meals and walking five hours a week, but one isn't losing weight, "the first thing we'd ask is if she's getting enough sleep," says Dr. Samuels. "With weight control, we look at physical activity, movement, food intake, and recovery, and you have to focus on sleep and where it fits into this context. The fundamental foundation of recovery is sleep."

Kids and teens also may have problems if they skimp on sleep. Studies have shown that short sleep time in children and adolescents is associated with being overweight. One recent studyalso suggests a possible link between decreased REM sleep and an increased risk of being overweight.

Even if you're sleeping, you may not be sleeping well
"There are no guarantees that sleeping more will translate into pounds lost," says Orr. "But if you have chronic sleep deprivation or chronic fragmentation of sleep and you stop that habit or correct the problem so you sleep well, it will probably be easier to lose weight."

People with obstructive sleep apnea or other sleep fragmentation disorders experience these problems, even if they spend enough time in bed, because their sleep quality is poor and interrupted too frequently to reach deep, restorative levels. Since sleep disorders often cause extreme daytime fatigue, even the thought of exercise or physical activity can be daunting. Research has shown a connection between sleep apnea and obesity.

To fight sleep-deprivation-related weight gain and help make weight loss easier, try the following:

  • Rest. "Get the sleep you need, end of story," says Dr. Samuels. "People always want some magic answer beyond that, but you've got to get your sleep. My biggest issue is people who wake up at 4 to go to the gym. People should focus on sleep first, to get to their goal from the weight perspective."
  • Work out early in the day. "Exercise can aid sleep, but not right before bedtime," says American Dietetic Association spokesperson Jim White, RD, an American College of Sports Medicine–certified fitness instructor in Virginia Beach, Va. After working out, "adrenaline hormones and body temperature are up, which can keep you from falling asleep," he says.
  • Eat right. "Protein is a critical factor for alertness, but people eat carbs when they're tired," says Dr. Samuels. "Instead, eat a handful of unsalted mixed nuts." Whole grains with fiber are also good, says White. "Sugary foods will give you an instant energy buzz for 30 to 45 minutes, but you'll see a big crash after that; whole grains will fuel you for a longer time."
  • Avoid alcohol. Even if you think it relaxes you, don't turn to alcohol to calm down in the evening. "People don't realize that alcohol has nearly the same amount of calories per gram as fat," says Dr. Samuels. "When men stop drinking, boy, do they lose weight fast." Additionally, drinking alcohol close to bedtime can disrupt sleep: You may fall asleep more quickly after a few drinks, but you'll likely wake up more frequently during the night, and research indicates you'll get less REM sleep during the first half of the night.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Obesity and diabetes: It's where you deposit the extra fat that hurts

As scientists explore the connections between type 2 diabetes and obesity, they seem to have settled on one principle: The amount of fat doesn't matter so much as where it is in the body.
Extra pounds are considered a risk factor for the condition, but most obese people don't develop diabetes.
And some type 2 patients, fewer than 20 percent, are lean, said Dr. Judith Fradkin, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases' diabetes, endocrinology and metabolic disease division.
"Although the obesity epidemic is driving the dramatic increases in type 2 diabetes, that's not the only thing going on," she said.
In April, an international team of researchers, primarily sponsored by NIDDK, announced in the journal Science that after combing the human genome, they had identified at least four new gene variants associated with elevated diabetes risk and confirmed the existence of another six.
More work must be done to figure out what the key genes actually do to influence diabetes development.
"Now that we know these genes are linked to diabetes, there's going to be a huge explosion to try to figure out the pathways through which these genes are acting," Dr. Fradkin said. "The importance of that is to develop new therapies."
The hallmark problem in type 2 diabetes and its precursor, pre-diabetes, is that muscle and liver cells are resistant to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels and is produced by the beta cells of the pancreas.
For a while, the beta cells are able to boost insulin production sufficiently to overcome the problem. When they no longer can rise to the challenge, blood sugars go up and the patient is diagnosed with pre-diabetes or the full-blown condition.
"Insulin resistance is the best predictor for whether or not someone will develop diabetes," said Dr. Gerald Shulman, an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a professor of medicine and physiology at Yale University. "So the question is, what causes insulin resistance?"
Using a technique called MR spectroscopy, his team was able to track tagged glucose molecules and their metabolism in the body. In muscle, they determined there was a problem in converting glucose into glycogen, a storage form of the sugar, primarily because glucose was not being transported efficiently into the cell.
Dr. Shulman noted that insulin-resistant individuals had a greater amount of fat inside muscle cells. "It's not marbling," like in a steak, he said. "It's little droplets of fat inside the [muscle cell]."
More research indicated metabolites of the intracellular fat interfered with insulin activation and signaling, which led to decreased glucose transport.
In liver cells, intracellular fat metabolites appear to trigger a cascade of events that alter the organ's normal conversion of glucose into glycogen, giving type 2 patients unusually high sugars after eating, and causes the organ to needlessly make more glucose from amino acids and lactate, causing high fasting sugars as well, he said.
So "it's not so much how much fat we have, it's really how it's distributed that's responsible for insulin resistance," Dr. Shulman said. "When it builds up inside the liver cells and muscle cells, that's when it causes trouble."
His team did a study with overweight, poorly controlled type 2 patients and found that calorie restriction and a 14- to 16-pound weight loss led to liver fat reduction and normalization of fasting blood sugar, he said.
In another project, they found that regular exercise could reverse insulin resistance in lean, otherwise healthy 20-year-olds. Dr. Shulman said exercise decreases intracellular fat by increasing the cell's need for energy, so it brings in glucose by a mechanism that doesn't depend on insulin. Also, activity increases the function of mitochondria, the so-called powerhouse of the cell.
The researchers reported in a July issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that insulin resistance appears to play the critical role in metabolic syndrome: high body mass, high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides and LDL, or "bad" cholesterol; and low levels of HDL, or "good" cholesterol.
Young, lean but insulin-resistant individuals tended to divert carbohydrates they had eaten into liver fat, while their insulin-sensitive peers converted them into muscle glycogen, Dr. Shulman said.
The muscle defect likely comes first, he said, and "if they don't change anything and they put on more weight ... they will be prone to fatty liver disease. And this fatty liver disease then causes insulin resistance in the liver."
"We're trying to now identify pharmacological targets to melt fat away inside the liver and muscle cells," he said. "I'm quite excited about it because we've identified half a dozen potential targets that are working in mouse models and we're keen to then translate these findings into humans."
While some researchers have suggested abdominal fat is a particular risk factor for diabetes, the Yale findings seem to say, "Don't blame the belly fat," as Dr. Shulman put it, because it could just be a marker for liver fat.
"From my perspective, it's all pretty simple," he said. "If we keep our eye really focused on melting away intracellular fat, I think that's going to make a huge difference in our patients."

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Phytochemicals: The Protection Packed in Plant Foods

by Beth Fontenot, MS, RD, LDN

"Eat your fruits and vegetables" is familiar nutritional advice and was no doubt originally intended to encourage people to eat foods that would meet all of their nutritional needs. 

Now, the science of nutrition has unearthed even more reasons why that advice is indeed beneficial: phytochemicals. Fruits and vegetables as well as other whole foods like nuts, legumes, and whole grains contain phytochemicals that have the ability to alter body processes and protect against heart disease, cancer, and many other chronic diseases.

The word phytochemical means plant chemical. In fact, the term "phyto" comes from the Greek word for "plant." Phytochemicals are organic, non-nutritive, naturally occurring chemicals found in plant foods. Even though they are non-essential nutrients, meaning they are not needed to sustain life, they may prolong life because of their health promotion properties.

Protecting Plants and People

Phytochemicals are a plant's way of protecting itself. They help shield tender buds and sprouts from predators, the elements, and pollution. These protective compounds are passed along to us when we eat plant foods.

One of the reasons we may like (or don’t like) certain foods is because of the phytochemicals they contain. These various compounds give foods their color, taste, and smell. They put the hot in habaneras, the gusto in garlic, the bitterness in broccoli, and the color in carrots. For example, carotenoids give foods their deep red, dark orange and yellow color while anthocyanins provide the various shades of red, purple, and blue found in other fruits and vegetables.

Flavonoids are the pigments that are responsible for the many other shades of yellow, orange, and red in foods. Isothiocyanates and indoles are the chemicals in cabbage that give that notorious odor to the kitchen when cabbage is cooked. Capsaicin puts the hot in chili peppers.

How Phytochemicals Help the Body
Phytochemicals appear to have significant physiological effects in the body. Whether they are acting as antioxidants, mimicking hormones, stimulating enzymes, interfering with DNA replication, destroying bacteria, or binding to cell walls, they seem to work to curb the onset of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Some phytochemicals work alone, others work in combination, and some seem to work in conjunction with other nutrients in food, such as vitamins.

The more brightly colored the food, the more phytochemicals a food contains, perhaps making the food that much more beneficial. However, less colorful fruits and vegetables, like onions and corn, are also rich in phytochemicals. Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is the best way to achieve all the potential benefits that phytochemicals offer.

There are over 1,000 known phytochemicals and probably many more that are yet to be discovered. The table below shows several types of phytochemicals, their possible beneficial effects, and food sources of each.
Table 1.
Chemical NamePossible BenefitsFood Sources
AllicinActs as an antioxidant; antimicrobial; may lower blood pressure and cholesterolGarlic, onions, leeks, chives
AnthocyaninsAct as antioxidants; may lower blood pressure and improve vision; anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity; may provide protection against cancer and heart diseaseBlueberries, blackberries, red apples and their skins, red potatoes, black raspberries, black currants, gooseberries.
CapsaicinMay lower blood pressure and cholesterol; may prevent blood clots; may curb inflammationChili peppers
Carotenoids (beta -carotene, lycopene, lutein and more)Acts as an antioxidant; may reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, and age-related macular degeneration; may enhance the immune system response.Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, apricots, peaches, tomatoes, brightly colored peppers, dark leafy green vegetables
FlavonoidsAct as an antioxidant; may protect against heart disease; may protect against peptic ulcers; anti-inflammatory effect; anti-cancer activity.Onions, curly kale, leeks, broccoli, apples, blueberries, purple grapes, purple grape juice, whole wheat, red wine, dark chocolate, tea
IsoflavonesInhibit cell replication in the GI tract; may reduce the risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers (breast, ovarian, colon, prostate); may decrease the risk of osteoporosisSoybeans and soy products, other legumes.
IndolesMay inhibit the action of estrogen; may decrease the risk of cancerCruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale)
IsothiocyanatesAct as an antioxidant; may increase the activity of enzymes that function in the detoxification and elimination of toxins.Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale)
LignansMay block estrogen activity in the cells and reduce the risk of breast, ovarian, prostate, and colon cancer; reduce the risk of heart disease.Flaxseed ,sesame seed, whole grains like rye, wheat, oat, and barley, soybeans, cruciferous vegetables, apricots, strawberries, nuts, seeds
MonoterpenesMay reduce the risk of cancer; antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial.Skins and oils of citrus fruits
Phenolic AcidsMay protect against oxidative damage diseases, i.e. heart disease, stroke, cancer.Tea, coffee, berries, oranges, pears, prunes, soybeans, oats, potatoes
ResveratrolMay prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce LDL cholesterol, prevent blood clots.Grapes, wine, grape juice, peanuts, blueberries, bilberries, cranberries
TanninsAct as antioxidants; may reduce the risk of cancer.Grapes, persimmons, lentils, blueberries, tea, , chocolate, wine
The recent research into the potential health benefits of phytochemicals has uncovered numerous possibilities. Anthocyanins and other flavonoids appear to improve vision health.(1) Resveratrol is being studied for the prevention of prostate cancer. The isoflavones in soybeans may reduce inflammation and the risk of heart disease.(2) Lignans have shown promise in reducing the growth of cancerous tumors, particularly in the breast and prostate.(3)
Cranberries contain a diverse composition of phytochemicals, and research shows promise that they may help to limit cancer and other diseases of aging.(4)Phytochemicals in apples were shown to reduce cardiac risk factors in obese rats with metabolic syndrome.(5) Whole grain foods contain a wide variety of unique phytochemicals that are thought to be responsible for the health benefits of whole grain consumption.(6)

Vegetarians naturally consume higher levels of carotenoids, flavonoids, and other phytochemicals and tend to have lower cancer rates, lower blood cholesterol levels, lower risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and a lower risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Their diets also tend to be higher in dietary fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins C and E, and folate. (7)

The value of phytochemicals is one reason why the USDA's Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage the consumption of at least five cups of fruits and vegetables and three ounces of whole grain foods every day. On average, Americans eat less than two cups of vegetables per day and only one cup of fruit a day. Less than 5 percent of Americans consume the recommended amount of whole grains with most eating less an one serving a day. Clearly, Americans are lacking in their intake of plant foods and not reaping the health benefits provided by the phytochemicals they contain.

It's Easy to Up Your Intake
The only way to increase the intake of phytochemicals is to eat more plant foods. Here are some tips for incorporating more plant foods in your diet:
  • Make a conscious effort to eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Use catsup on your burgers instead of mayonnaise. Not only is catsup fat-free and lower in calories, but it is rich in the phytochemical lycopene.
  • Add shredded peppers, radishes, onions, or broccoli steams to a shredded cabbage and carrot salad.
  • Choose dried apricots, pineapples, apples, or tropical mix for snacks instead of candy.
  • Eat the white part of citrus fruit, the albedo. While the flesh and juice of citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C and other nutrients, the albedo is very rich in phytochemicals.
  • Add artichokes, onions, sliced tomatoes, or spinach to your pizza.
  • Keep jars of chopped garlic, ginger, and basil in your kitchen to speed up meal preparation.
  • Drink more tea. Both ordinary and green teas contain beneficial phytochemicals.
  • Add grated zucchini, carrots, or apples to plain muffin mix.
  • Make spaghetti using less meat and more vegetables. Onions, peppers, squash, zucchini, and carrots can all be incorporated into spaghetti sauce
  • Keep frozen vegetables on hand to add to casseroles and soups.
  • Eat the whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice.
  • Be liberal in your use of spices when cooking. Basil, oregano, parsley, sage, thyme, turmeric, garlic, and ginger all contain phytochemicals.
  • Toss a handful of nuts into a salad.
  • Learn to cook with whole grains like brown rice, whole oats, whole wheat, amaranth, barley, buckwheat, and quinoa.
  • Experiment with soy products like tofu and vegetable protein meat substitutes.
  • Designate one or two meals a week as meat-free meals. Use legumes to create main dishes.
  • Be adventurous. Use the resources at your fingertips on the Internet to search for recipes that incorporate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds in ways you may not have tried before.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

What is CrossFit training and is it appropriate for the average person?

By Pete McCall, MS

CrossFit is an intense exercise program featuring dynamic exercises like plyometric jumps, and Olympic lifts while using non-traditional weightlifting equipment such as kettlbells, sand-bags, suspension systems or water-filled implements.  The program is structured in such a way that participants are challenged to do a certain number of repetitions in a workout in a specific time frame; the more advanced CrossFit participants will actually compete against each other to see how fast they can complete the daily workout and post their results on the CrossFit website.

Due to the intensity and explosive muscle action of the exercises in a CrossFit workout, there are many benefits for the average exercise enthusiast; however, the intensity of the exercises which deliver the benefits could also increase the risk of injury if not done correctly. Before beginning a CrossFit program, work with a personal trainer to learn how to perform the movements required for the workout.  An individual should first develop necessary joint mobility (especially at the ankles, hips and shoulders) as well as joint stability (particularly in the core region) to learn how to effectively perform hip hinge, squat, pushing, pulling and rotating movements. 

The explosive and plyometric exercises in a CrossFit workout require rapid lengthening and shortening of muscles so if a participant does not take the time to develop the necessary flexibility and movement skills first, the joints might not allow a full range-of-motion which could affect muscle tissue and cause an injury.

The many benefits of CrossFit training are due to the intensity of the exercises. High intensity, power-based exercises are effective for burning a high number of calories in a short period of time while simultaneously improving aerobic fitness and promoting the anabolic hormones such as testosterone, HGH and IGF-1 which are responsible for muscular growth and can actually have an anti-aging effect.  CrossFit is an excellent workout program and is a great way for the experienced exercise enthusiast to add much-needed intensity and diversity to his or her program; however, it is not a recommended program for people just starting to exercise or returning after a long hiatus. It is highly recommended to work with a personal trainer and develop the necessary mobility, stability and movement skills before progressing to a challenging CrossFit workout.

Cross fit is amazing at developing fitness and power (it could be suitable for training in combat, high exertion sports and work) but it is not essential to do it to lose weight.

If you already have good conditioning where you are used to exerting yourself then CrossFit can be the next step for you.

(The large muscle groups worked, high energy moves means and duration means CrossFit is good at raising anabolic hormones. Doing the exercises more slowly and without plyometrics is still very beneficial.)

As always you need to enjoy what you do - that is the only way where you will continue to do it.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Does Sweating More Mean You’re More Fit?

I’m relatively new to triathlon and to serious training. Over the past several months I’ve been making steady progress, and recently I’ve noticed that I’ve started sweating more. The conditions (temp and humidity) are about the same as they’ve been, but I’m sweating a lot more. Does that mean I’m getting more fit?
 - Jackie Gallagher, training for my first Ironman!
The short answer to your question, assuming that the environmental conditions have been roughly constant, is yes. Improving fitness impacts the way your body works in a wide variety of ways, and your sweat response to exercise changes as you become more fit because you’re increasing the workload your body has to be able to handle.
Sweat is one of your body’s primary means of preventing your core temperature from rising to dangerous levels. During exercise, the majority of the calories you burn actually generate heat instead of powering forward motion (sorry, but that’s just the way it is). In fact, on the bike you are only about 20-25% efficient, meaning 75% of the energy you produce becomes heat. That heat has to be dissipated, so your body dilates blood vessels near the skin to carry some of that heat away from your core to areas where cooler air flowing over the skin can carry away some of the heat. Sweat makes the cooling process work even better, because as sweat evaporates off your skin it takes a lot of heat with it.
As you become more fit, you are able to work harder. You generate more power on the bike and maintain a faster pace on the run and in the water. But the ability to work harder also means you have the ability to generate a lot of heat in a very short period of time. You also have the endurance to sustain exercise longer, meaning you have the capacity to generate heat for a longer period of time. Your body has to adapt to these demands in order to keep your core temperature stable. Here are a couple of ways it does that:
  1. You start sweating sooner: Your body’s sweat response gets quicker as you gain fitness. This means you’ll see sweat appearing on your skin sooner after you start exercising than you did when you were a novice. These days, when you start warming up your body knows what’s coming next, so it ramps up the cooling process more quickly to stay ahead of the rise in core temperature.
  2. Your sweat volume increases: When the house is on fire, you open up the spigots and get as much water on it as you can. For the fire within, we don’t want to extinguish it but we need to control it, and the more sweat you get onto your skin the more likely you are to be able to keep core temperature from rising out of control. So your body becomes better at creating sweat.
  3. You lose fewer electrolytes per unit volume: As your body is adapting to sweat more and sooner, it also changes the composition of sweat so that you retain more electrolytes than you used to. You’ll still need to replenish electrolytes during exercise, but this adaptation helps to keep the electrolyte requirement manageable.
Fit athletes sweat more because they need to. They generate more heat and have to produce more sweat in order to maximize their evaporative cooling capacity. That means fit athletes have to consume more fluid so you have more to contribute to sweat. But sometimes sweating isn’t enough, or sweat might be enough to keep you moving but you could optimize your performance by helping your body stay cool. That’s where hydration, apparel choices, ice socks/vests, cold sponges, etc. come into play. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
  1. Hydration is your source for sweat: The better you hydrate – during exercise as well as throughout the day – the more efficient your body will be when it comes to sweat production. Remember, when there’s not enough fluid to go around, your body starts an internal competition for resources, and all systems experience diminished performance. You don’t absorb and digest food as well, your muscles don’t function as well, and you don’t regulate core temperature as well.
  2. Evaporative cooling works just as well whether it’s your sweat or bottled/tap water that’s evaporating off your skin. Even if you’re well hydrated, it’s a good idea to dump water over your head and body during training sessions and races in hot weather. You’ll make your body’s job a bit easier by slightly alleviating the demand for sweat. Ice socks work the same way; the ice absorbs heat from your body to melt the ice, and then the water carries away additional heat as it evaporates out of clothing or off your skin.
  3. Electrolyte drinks or carbohydrate/electrolyte drinks should be a part of during-exercise nutrition strategy whenever your workouts are going to be longer than 1 hour. For workouts shorter than an hour, electrolyte drinks may still be somewhat helpful, but generally you’ll start short workouts with enough carbohydrates and electrolytes on board to complete a high-quality one-hour session.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Could Artificial Sweeteners Raise Your Blood Sugar?

By Rita Rubin

If you’re one of the millions of Americans for whom diet sodas and artificially sweetened desserts play leading roles in efforts to shed pounds and help prevent long-term diseases like diabetes, new research might give you pause.
The work, done with mice and humans, suggests that artificial sweeteners could raise your blood sugar levels more than if you indulged in sugar-sweetened sodas and desserts.
Blame it on the bugs in your gut, scientists say. They found that saccharin (a.k.a. Sweet‘N Low), sucralose (a.k.a. Splenda) and aspartame (a.k.a. NutraSweet and Equal) raised blood sugar levels by dramatically changing the makeup of the gut microorganisms, mainly bacteria, that are in the intestines and help with nutrition and the immune system. There are trillions of them -- many times more than the cells of the body -- and they account for roughly 4 pounds of your body weight.
Scientists in recent years have focused more and more on the link between the gut microorganisms and health.
In the latest research, “what we are seeing in humans and also in mice is this previously unappreciated correlation between artificial sweetener use” and microorganisms in the gut, said Eran Elinav, MD, one of the scientists involved in the new study. Elinav and a collaborator, Eran Segal, PhD, spoke at a press conference held by Nature, the journal that published their team’s findings. Both of the scientists are on the faculty of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
“Initially, we were surprised by the results, which is why we also repeated them multiple times,” Segal said.
Industry groups said the small number of mice and people studied make the findings hard to apply to larger populations. But one scientist not involved in the research called the small study of humans “profound.”

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Why Some People Can Eat A Lot and Stay Thin

by Nina Kate
We all have that one friend who seems to defy all laws of calories and weight gain. You know, the one who can put down jumbo-size fries, jelly-filled donuts and staggering portions of spaghetti and never seem to gain an ounce. Is it just luck, or does this person have a weight-maintenance secret that we can all learn from? The latter is most likely, and adopting the tactics of the thin-yet-well-fed crowd can help the rest of us keep (or restore) our trim waistlines.

Eat A Lot and Stay Thin? Sounds NEAT!

Health experts are beginning to explore the idea that people who eat all they want and don't gain weight are actually more active than the rest of the population, and therefore burn more calories. However, these folks don't necessarily spend more time at the gym. They probably engage in a practice known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). 

NEAT may sound like a lofty concept, but it's actually quite simple: all physical activity--aside from regimented workouts--counts. When you stand up and pace while talking on the phone, chop cabbage for dinner or even twiddle your thumbs sitting at your desk, you are engaging in NEAT. So that friend who can pig out without consequence probably fidgets more than you do and stands on her feet while you're sitting down. 

According to ACE, engaging in NEAT throughout the day can increase your metabolism by up to 50 percent--so if you normally burn 2,000 calories per day while sedentary, NEAT can help you burn up to 3,000 calories per day. That translates to a lot of pasta, and definitely entitles you to dessert. 

How to Be NEAT

If NEAT doesn't come naturally to you, you may be able to train yourself by consciously including more small movements into your day. Wiggle your legs or tap your fingers at your work desk, rock back and forth on your heels while waiting in line at the post office, and choose standing over sitting whenever possible. You may also burn more calories by purchasing a pedometer and setting goals for yourself, such as 12,000 steps a day.

Lean Muscle Tissue is Also a Factor

Aside from NEAT, people with fast metabolisms may have one other trick up their sleeve: a high percentage of lean muscle tissue. Muscle takes more calories to maintain than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn--even as you sleep. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that you can increase your metabolism by up to 15 percent by building more muscle.

Increasing muscle mass takes time (months, rather than seconds as with NEAT), but the payoff is worth it. Not only will weight control become easier, but you'll also be able to perform everyday activities more capably, and may even help curb arthritis, osteoporosis and back pain. To build more muscle, lift weights, take a vigorous yoga class or simply perform calisthenic exercises like push-ups, squats and sit-ups two to three times per week, working all major muscle groups.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

14 Ways to Cut Portions Without Feeling Hungry

Portion control tips

by Diana Kelly

To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume, which inevitably means one thing: portion control. But you're not necessarily doomed to a growling stomach until you reach your goal. "Portion control doesn't mean you have to eat tiny portions of everything," says Lisa Young, PhD, RD, author of The Portion Teller Plan: The No-Diet Reality Guide to Eating, Cheating, and Losing Weight Permanently. "You don't want to feel like you're on a diet, but you have to eat fewer calories."

Here are 14 easy ways to cut portions, trim calories, and lose fat without counting the minutes until your next meal.

Start with a glass of H2O

Drink 16 ounces (a big glass) of water before you eat, suggests Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, author of The Flexitarian Diet. Filling your belly with water will naturally make you less likely to overeat, she says. Plus, some symptoms of dehydration may actually be what's causing your rumbling belly, so sipping some water before you eat may eliminate your "hunger" altogether.
Wear form-fitting clothes

We're not suggesting you squeeze into pants that are too tight. However, wearing an outfit with a waistband or perhaps a jacket with buttons can serve as a tool to prompt you to slow down and assess how you feel during your meal, says Young. As your clothing begins to feel a little snugger, it may keep you from going back for seconds.

Add veggie fillers

Bulking up your meals with veggies is one easy way to cut calories while filling you up fast. Spinach, for example, can be used as a sandwich-topper or can add fiberand nutrients to pasta and stir-fries, says Blatner. Other ideas to eat more veggies: swap in mushrooms for half the ground meat in most recipes, make oatmeal more filling with diced apples, and use a whole-wheat pita in place of bread so you can stuff it with more veggies.

Dine on dinnerware that helps you lose

The color of your plate may influence how much you eat, according to a 2012 Cornell University study. The researchers discovered that when a plate and the food on it had a low color-contrast (like pasta with Alfredo sauce on a white plate), people at a buffet served themselves 22% more than when there was a higher color-contrast (like pasta with red sauce on a white plate or pasta with Alfredo sauce on a red plate). The study conclusions suggest that if you want to eat less, select plates that have a color-contrast to the food you're eating for dinner. Or if you want to eat more healthy foods, like a bigger salad, eat greens from a large green plate or bowl!

Make carbs the topper instead of the base

Rethink the way you use grains and starches. Take a breakfast parfait, for instance: instead of starting with a granola base, fill your cup with yogurt and then sprinkle just a tiny amount of granola on top for the crunch you crave. Making a stir-fry? Load up your plate with veggies and a serving of lean protein, then add a quarter cup of brown rice.

Set the scene for slower eating.

Dim lights and listen to relaxing music to set the tone for a more leisurely meal, suggests Blatner. "Taking your time while eating increases enjoyment and decreases portions," she says. Remember to chew slowly, put down your fork between bites, and sip water to make your meal last longer.

Work for your food

Here's another way to slow down your eating: munch on foods that require shelling, peeling, or individual unwrapping, suggests Blatner. Oranges, edamame, and pistachios in their shells are healthy options.

Don't eat from the bag or box

When you sit down with a bag of chips, do you really know how many you're eating? Researchers from Cornell University sought to answer this question in a study and found that people ate 50% more chips when they were given no visual cues as to how large a portion should be. So if you buy a bag of pretzels or tin of nuts that contains 10 servings, divide the contents of the container into 10 smaller baggies ahead of time.

Slurp your appetizer

Before you dive into your entrée, have some soup. Though it may seem counterintuitive to add more to your meal, research shows that starting a meal with soup may help you reduce your overall calorie intake. In a 2007 study, people who ate soup before their lunch entrée reduced their total calorie intake by 20%. Your best bet: a broth-based soup, preferably with veggies to help you feel full from the natural fiber, says Young. Here are a few healthy soup recipes to get you started.

Take a lap before serving yourself

In a Cornell University study published in PLoS One, researchers observed people at two separate breakfast buffet lines that featured the same seven items: cheesy eggs, potatoes, bacon, cinnamon rolls, low-fat granola, low-fat yogurt, and fruit. One line presented the foods from healthiest to least-healthy, while the other line had the order reversed. Regardless of which line they passed through, more than 75% of diners put the first food they saw on their plates; the first three foods they encountered in the buffet made up two-thirds of all the foods they added to their plate. So take a stroll around the buffet or dinner table before you serve yourself, suggests Young.

Drink from a tall glass

It's okay to have a cocktail with your meal if that's what you really want, but keep it to one glass and enjoy it slowly, suggests Young. To trick yourself into believing you're having more, pour your drink into a tall, thin glass. A 2005 study published in the journal BMJ revealed that practiced bartenders who poured what they thought was a shot of alcohol (1.5 ounces) into a short, wide glass poured 20% more than when the glass was tall and thin. Add extra ice to your drink to make it look like even more!

Limit mealtime distractions

Turn off the TV and put your smartphone away while you eat. A recent review of studies found that people who watched television during meals tended to consume more than those who ate without any distractions. And for you office dwellers? Consider taking your lunch break away from your desk—in an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, people who played computer solitaire while having lunch felt less full at the end, and went on to eat more food later in the day than those who didn't play the game.

Use smaller serveware and dishes

Turns out that even food experts aren't so savvy about eyeballing portion sizes. In a Cornell University study, 85 nutrition experts gathered for an ice cream social to celebrate the success of a colleague. They were randomly given either a small or large bowl, or a small serving scoop or large serving scoop. Then, the nutritionists were asked to complete a brief survey while the study researchers secretly weighed their bowls. Those given the larger bowls served themselves 31% more without realizing it, while those who used the larger scoop unknowingly served themselves 14.5% more. Moral of the story? Dish up your own food with a small utensil onto a small bowl or plate, and chances are you'll eat less.

End your meal with a new kind of sweet treat

Many people have trained themselves to expect a sweet treat at the end of a meal, says Blatner. Swap in a new, healthier ritual after meals to signal that you're done eating. She recommends brewing a flavorful decaf tea like peppermint, cinnamon, chocolate, or one of your favorite fruity varieties for low-or-no-calorie sweet-tooth satisfier.